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Sydney Water Restrictions

Sydney Water Restrictions

Words by Emma Goldrick


Sydney's water management continues to be a heavily politicised tool utilised to demonstrate the severity of water security and what this means for NSW moving forward.  On June 1st the NSW State Government imposed the first water restrictions on Sydney City in almost a decade. The discussion and framing around Australia's drought in recent years has been contained to that of rural regions and agricultural areas, however with the newly imposed restrictions on Sydney, the crisis is in our backyards. 

The implementation of these restrictions shows there to be more value in the conservation of the dam water rather than its immediate consumption, demonstrating that the government is predicting the drought conditions to become more severe. Whilst level 1 restrictions may have very little impact on individuals lives, it is symbolic of the greater direction of water security in Australia. Through the use of water regulations the government is able to emphasize the value of water through another mechanism rather then monetarily. Water is a resource that should remain affordable and accessible to the masses and through the imposing of water restrictions the government is able to demonstrate its vitality and discourage wasteful use.  

Traditionally the government would impose a water ration system on the city when dam levels deplete to 50%. With dam levels reducing by 0.5% prior to June 2019, the government deemed it a necessary measure to impose restrictions two months prior then the scheduled date. The dam had diminished to 53.5% in the late days of May 2019 when the Berejiklian government saw it essential to implement water regulations on residents and businesses. 

Traditionally ‘level one restrictions’ are compulsorily imposed once the dam drops below 50%, the government's implementation of regulations prior to this suggests preparation for even more serious conditions. More than 85% of Greater Sydney’s water supply is reliant on rain, which means regulations on water consumption in times of prolonged and indefinite drought are critical to the maintenance of the city. 

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The level 1 water restrictions imposed on Sydney City regulate the use of outdoor water including; 

Watering of lawns & gardens - Greenery may only be watered with a can or bucket (Blue Mountains and the Illawarra region inclusive). Handheld hoses must be fitted with a trigger nozzle and are only to be used before 10am or after 4pm. Non-monitored watering systems such as sprinkles are not allowed to be left unattended. 

Washing of vehicles & buildings - Washing of vehicles and buildings require a hose with a trigger nozzle and without this specification patrons are liable to a fine. Watering systems used for washing vehicles and buildings cannot be left unattended. 

Cleaning paths & driveways - Restrictions state individuals are no longer allowed to wash down the entirety of a surface (path or driveway), however should spot clean the area only for health or emergency reasons. 

Filling pools & spas - While you are allowed to top up an existing spa or pool to replace water lost due to evaporation, you are exempt from filing a new or renovated spa or pool with a capacity greater than 10, 000 litres without a permit.

Fines of $220 for individuals and $550 for businesses will apply for those who fail to follow the level 1 water restrictions. Sydney Water has stated that there will be a three-month grace period before these fines apply - meaning fines will not be issued for non-abidance until after the 1st of September 2019. 

Since different towns in regional New South Wales obtain their drinking water from a variety of sources different towns are required to abide by different restrictions. Towns that New South Wales has considered to be of great drought risk  include Armidale which as of May 2019 is bound by level 4 restrictions, Gosford also bound by level 4 restrictions as of October 2006 and Orange in which level 5a restrictions have been in place since 2010. Level 4 and 5 restrictions include ‘state of emergency’ measures i.e. the banning of all residential use of outdoor water usage, the essential use of signage displaying what type of water is in use etc. 

The implementation of water restrictions has seen success in areas such as Goulburn which had level 5 water restrictions implemented in 2004. Goulburn then went on to win a National Water Conservation Award For Excellence due to the amount of water which was able to be preserved as a result of such restrictions. Goulburns strong abidance to level 5 strict water restrictions meant the area was able to relax regulations to level 3 in July 2007.  

The restrictions imposed on SydneySiders in June 2019 will not require individuals to change their daily use of water by drastic means as regulations predominantly reside to outdoor water usage. However the government has encouraged the public to save water in all circumstances in order to prevent having to impose level 2 restrictions on the city. The implementation of level 1 restrictions in Sydney City should serve to emphasis the water management and further environment crisis that the nation is facing, rending it a monumental regulation that speaks to the direction of Australia. 






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